Actor Headshot Tips: Be Versatile

Recently I had a shoot with repeat actor client, Eden Zane. It had been, I believe, two years since we last shot together and he needed some updated headshots to take his acting in a new direction. He's a funny, nerdy guy in real life and wanted that to come across in his headshots. For this new set of headshots he wanted to capture a friendly guy next door look (think the likeable protagonist in a romantic comedy), a young bachelor type(the heartthrob or bad boy in a romantic comedy), and tech expert (think the hacker guy in a crime show like CSI). I thought this would be a great opportunity to provide tips on how you can add some versatility to your session.

 Friendly, guy next door look. Could even be a business professional or young CEO.

Friendly, guy next door look. Could even be a business professional or young CEO.

 Same outfit, but a different expression changes everything in a headshot. Here's his young bachelor look.

Same outfit, but a different expression changes everything in a headshot. Here's his young bachelor look.

When it comes to looking versatile in your headshot session you can do this a couple ways:

- Pick wardrobe and/or a location that reflects the type of character you wish to portray. A business suit and shots of you in a more corporate environment may make you a more believable politician or white collar character. A industrial background might be a good fit for an urban drama (think Power or The Wire).

- Work on expressions that speak to the personality of the character. A generic smile may not help communicate the type of character you're portraying. For Eden's tech expert look, we went with the cocky know it all. You know the guy the good guys have to call on to "out hack the hacker".  

Study the work of some of your favorite actors (Robin Williams is a great choice) and notice how they use expressions or other physical quirks to capture the essence of the character they're portraying. Use that as your guideline for perfecting your expressions before you shoot. Practice in the mirror if you have to or record a video on your phone so you can see yourself in action.

Expressions are also great to hone in on in the event you schedule a 1-look session. While I generally recommend a minimum 2-Look session for actors, those only doing 1 look should really work on expressions to give themselves plenty of choices. While the outfit will stay the same, that doesn't mean the feeling of the photograph can't change and that's primarily done with your expression.

 Hackerman. The king of all hackers. I imagine him saying, "If I change the parameters and ping his server, it'll triangulate the signal and give up his location." Errrr...something like that. ;-)

Hackerman. The king of all hackers. I imagine him saying, "If I change the parameters and ping his server, it'll triangulate the signal and give up his location." Errrr...something like that. ;-)

It's best to combine both approaches, but if you have to pick just one when say, you're working in a studio, go with nailing expressions that capture the personality type of the character you're portraying. Are they sexy? Flirty? Clumsy? Funny? Arrogant? Aggressive? All these descriptions elicit completely different expressions resulting in images that accurately portray the character type. This will prove invaluable when you're reading breakdowns and the character description mentions some of the personality traits you've captured in your headshots. You'll have the perfect headshot for the role. Additionally, it will give you more varied headshot options so all your images aren't either a big smile or plain face, staring into the camera look. 

This is simply that can help you get the most from your session and help you show casting directors you have range. Be versatile!

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